What’s good for the body politic is good for the body.
From 1990’s AIDS activism to today’s attention to community-based participatory research, public health has long recognized that good health requires healthy debate.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation captures the importance of voice to health as a key driver of a Culture of Health:
In a healthy community, residents take an active role. Civic engagement creates healthier communities by developing the knowledge and skills to improve quality of life. Voting and volunteering are among the many measures of an engaged population. In both cases, people’s actions show they care about the outcomes of their community or their nation, and they want to cultivate positive change. These Measures reflect whether individuals feel motivated and able to participate and make a difference.
That’s why voter suppression efforts around the country are so dispiriting. The Guardian reports President Obama telling a North Carolina crowd the story of 100-year-old Grace Bell Hardison, who lived in the same town her entire life and was purged from the voter rolls by Republicans. Alas the story is far from unique—having parallels throughout North Carolina and in other states—and far from new—having been a standard Republican technique since the Nixon days and before.
The Trump campaign is pitching in with Republican elected office-holders, with a senior campaign official telling Bloomberg News, “We have three major voter suppression operations under way.”
Voting matters in direct ways. For example, states that chose to reject Medicaid expansion under the ACA are both generally controlled by Republicans and also have relatively high proportions of African-Americans. As the Urban Institute reports, although the insurance expansions under the ACA have benefited African-Americans and Whites in roughly equal proportion, if the states in the South with Republican governors had accepted the expansion, African-Americans would have benefited more than proportionately. Simply replacing the governor in power would have extended important access to healthcare to millions of minority voters.
But being able to vote presumably also has an indirect on health through the message it sends about whether people belong in society or not. Suppressing your vote means they want you out. Having a say means they hope you’ll stay.
And if Silence=Death and Voter Suppression=Homicide, what is voter suppression that systematically targets one racial group?